So you want to come up with a fun character by ruining yourself or someone you know? Let’s do it!
Is your Uncle Lou always telling tall tales? Does your Aunt Janice make sculptures out of toenail clippings? Those are interesting details that could be fun to work into characters. Pick the most interesting person you know. Having trouble thinking of interesting people? Here are some examples:
Your mom or dad
Your grandfather or grandmother
Your brother or sister
Your best friend
Your worst enemy
Your parents’ best friend
Your best friend’s parent
Your mail carrier
Your school bus driver or crossing guard
The guy who lives three doors down from you
The lady who lives two doors down from him
The teenager who keeps letting his dog poop on your lawn
You get the idea.
Have you picked someone? Great! Now make a list of three words that describe that person. Just three. Think of how you would describe the person to your best friend so they’d get the best idea of who the person is.
I’ll give you an example. If I wanted to tell you about my cousin Bob, I’d say he was:
See how just three words can give you a general idea of who a person is? You might even have a picture of Cousin Bob in your head right now. Well, get rid of it! Because we’re not writing about him… or about the person you were describing, for that matter. We’re creating someone new. Which brings us to the next step…
Take one of those three words and push them to an extreme. Put the word “most” or “least” in front of it.
If one of your words is “serious,” for example, then start thinking about the most serious person you can imagine… or the least serious. Think about what that person is like. Come up with some examples of what makes them so serious (or so silly). What kind of trouble does that get them into? What kind of friends do they have? What do they do for fun? What are they afraid of?
Or maybe one of your words is “fancy.” So think of the fanciest person you can dream up. What are her shoes like? How does he talk? Or maybe this is the least fancy person you can think of. She uses paper clips to hold her hair in place. Instead of shoes, he wears old potato chip bags on his feet. Have fun with it!
See what ideas you can come up with if you’re making someone up rather than focusing on someone who actually exists. If it helps, draw a picture. Give them a name.
Let’s continue with my example, Cousin Bob. I said he was tall, so maybe the character I’m going to write is the tallest person in the world. Maybe he’s a giant!
Or let’s focus on the word “athletic.” What if I want to write about the least athletic person I can imagine? He’s so clumsy he can barely stand up. He’s so weak he can’t even lift a ping pong paddle. He holds the world record for getting hit in the face with a soccer ball more times than anyone else. Maybe to make things worse, he comes from a family of the world’s greatest athletes. Everyone from his baby sister to his grandma has won a gold medal in the Olympics. He wishes just once he could win a game at a sport, any sport. Just one game. Maybe he makes up a new sport, where clumsiness is a good thing! Getting hit in the face with the ball earns you 10 points.
That’s all it took to get me thinking of a fun, unique character that came totally from my imagination, and he’s no longer anything like my Cousin Bob. You may not like what you come up with enough to use him or her in a story, but that’s okay. That’s one of the reasons I told you to think of three words. You can always go back and work on one of the other words instead.
Of course, there are lots of other ways to come up with characters. If this one doesn’t work for you, try something else! Great characters are everywhere, and now that you’re on the lookout, you’re sure to find some winners!